Even before she could walk, Erin Tatum, the facilities and house manager for the Performing Arts Center, loved music.
She used to crawl onto her family’s piano bench and bang around on the piano. After showing an early interest, she started taking piano lessons with her mother. She played piano until middle school, when she picked up the flute and piccolo, the instruments she played in high school and marched with in the Redcoat Band as an undergraduate at UGA.
Now she channels that love for music into overseeing concerts in the Performing Arts Center, including the 200 Performing Arts Center, School of Music and rental events hosted every year in Hodgson and Ramsey halls.
She was a music student; and now she’s on the other side of the concerts. “Supporting the concerts from the wings instead of playing on stage,” she said.
And recently she was honored as an outstanding young arts administrator by the Association for Performing Arts Presenters. She was one of 25 arts professionals from across the country invited to participate in the Emerging Leadership Institute at the association’s annual conference held earlier this month in New York.
Her job includes front-of-house responsibilities, meaning she works with ushers to make sure the patrons get from outside the building into the seating area without any issues. This duty includes coordinating volunteers and making sure that all Performing Arts Center staff are trained on what to do in the event of a tornado or fire.
And while Tatum enjoys getting to attend many of the concerts the Performing Arts Center hosts, like Yo-Yo Ma or the Punch Brothers, her real passion is instilling her love for music in young people.
She’s also the PAC’s outreach coordinator; and her proudest accomplishment is expanding the PAC’s music outreach into Clarke County schools to include more concerts and hands-on educational opportunities for the students.
Now, the schools get study guides about the musicians coming to visit. Teachers receive information about the visiting musicians, their instruments and even a CD of works the artist will play so the students will have heard the music before the visit.
Tatum also started a series of performances for Clarke County students called Young People’s Concerts. These shows bring visiting artists like pianist Gleb Ivanov, and piano duo Christina and Michelle Naughton to the Performing Arts Center to specifically perform for the children. The goal is “to introduce them to music that they probably don’t hear on the radio,” she said.
“The fact is unless we bring the university to them, there’s a good chance that none of these students will ever step on campus,” Tatum said. “It’s our responsibility to reach those students. To show them a little bit of what we see every day.”
For one of the first Young People’s Concerts, pianist Charlie Albright gave two performances for elementary, middle and high school students. Afterward, students asked if he wrote his own music. This led him to improvise and eventually take requests for radio songs. By the end of his two days of outreach, Albright had played N*Sync, the Backstreet Boys, Disney songs and pop music to the students.
“It was a lot of fun to make that connection,” said Tatum, who still plays in the alumni band and flute choir when she has a chance. “It really made music relevant to the students, and maybe they went home and practiced their instruments after that.”
Clarke County music students also take part in hands-on workshops with graduate brass quintet the Bulldog Brass Society as part of the PAC’s outreach program. This fall, two trumpeters from the Bulldog Brass visited Coile Middle School to talk to sixth through eighth grade trumpeters about breathing and embouchure and they answered questions about college life. The students got to see different types of trumpets, “hold them, hear them played and get a feel for the fact that there’s more to trumpet playing than just sixth grade band,” Tatum said. “And they can use that and keep it in mind if they wanted to move forward, even if it’s just playing in high school marching band. There’s something past what they’re doing right now and that’s something to aspire toward.”
Tatum is also in charge of booking UGA’s Chapel for events. In addition to university events, approximately 40 weddings a year are held in the venue.
One new trend with Chapel bookings is that: “More guys call about reserving space or asking about proposing on the steps,” she said. They call to make sure an event isn’t going on when they plan to propose, and some times will book the Chapel before the proposal. “They get so excited that all of it is working out,” Tatum said. And it’s a fun part of her job when she gets a callback after the proposal, telling her: “She said yes!”